The European Union has distanced from the idea of renewing its large-scale Free Trade Agreement with the United States as part of Brussels’s efforts to secure a permanent exclusion from the aluminum and steel import duties.
A day after US Secretary of Trade Wilbur Ross said that the administration was ready to resume talks on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the European Commission said it was looking for a dialogue with Washington on general interest, including global steel stockpile.
“Further contacts will be made in the coming weeks to negotiate the specific scope and framework of this EU-US dialogue”, said the spokesperson of the European Commission. “The EC is committed to linking the process in an open and constructive way. However, it should be clear that this dialogue is not a renewal of the Transatlantic Partnership for Trade and Investment”, added he.
The TTIP talks were frozen after Trump’s arrival at the White House, as his program rejects multilateral trade initiatives. This includes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), from which the president has withdrawn the US last year.
“He broke off the Trans-Atlantic deal, but did not stop TTIP”, said Wilbur Ross in an interview. “It was quite deliberate and open as a message that we are open to talks with the European Commission”, added he.
The EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and the US Secretary of State talked earlier this week, focusing on the deadline of May 1st, when Trump will have to decide whether to extend the EU moratorium on US tariffs for aluminum and steel imports.
The White House justified the charges with concerns about national security. They have been rejected by the EU, which is pushing for its permanent exclusion, and even threatened to join China in the application of tariffs for US goods, as well as complaining to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Donald Trump has placed an unclear condition for the extension of the moratorium after May 1 – the development of discussions to find a “satisfactory long-term alternative to address the threat of undermining US national security”.
At the end of 14 months of the administration of the Trump administration, the EU officials are skeptical that the Washington authorities will be ready for the same type of large, open-market TTIP deal as the bloc negotiated with Barack Obama’s government.
Last May, Cecilia Malmstrom declined to reject the possibility of a free trade deal between the EU and the US, suggesting that TTIP was frozen after the election of Donald Trump. Then she said there was a huge potential for such a deal, but it took more time and the need to ensure that the two sides had “shared ambitions and shared ground”.